Frederick C. Beiser: The German Historicist Tradition

Oxford University Press, 2011

– This is the first study of the subject to be written in English

– Introduces rarely-studied philosophers alongside major historical thinkers

– Explores the historical and cultural contexts of a striking intellectual tradition

– Illuminates its relevance to our modern understanding of the world

BeiserThis is the first full study in English of the German historicist tradition. Frederick C. Beiser surveys the major German thinkers on history from the middle of the eighteenth century until the early twentieth century, providing an introduction to each thinker and the main issues in interpreting and appraising his thought. The volume offers new interpretations of well-known philosophers such as Johann Gottfried Herder and Max Weber, and introduces others who are scarcely known at all, including J. A. Chladenius, Justus Möser, Heinrich Rickert, and Emil Lask. Beyond an exploration of the historical and intellectual context of each thinker, Beiser illuminates the sources and reasons for the movement of German historicism – one of the great revolutions in modern Western thought, and the source of our historical understanding of the human world.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Concept and Context of Historicism

1  Chladenius and the New Science of History

2  Justus Möser and the Roots of Historicism

3  Herder’s Historicism, its Genesis and Development

4  Humboldt the Proteus

5  Savigny and the Historical School of Law

6  Ranke’s Romantic Philosophy

7  The Historics of Johann Gustav Droysen

8  Dilthey and the Foundations of the Human Sciences

9  Wilhelm Windelband and the Forces of History

10  Rickert and the Philosophy of Value

11  Emil Lask and the End of Southwestern Neo-Kantianism

12  Simmel’s Early Philosophy of History

13  Max Weber and the End of the Historicist Tradition



“This is an excellent and fascinating book. Beiser brings to bear a deep knowledge of both primary and secondary sources, a sharp eye for important philosophical issues, and an engaging writing style.”  Michael N. Forster, Mind

“this book exhibits the stylistic virtues that readers have come to expect from Beisers work, above all the virtue of clarity of exposition”  Corey McCall, Philosophy in Review

About the Author:

Frederick C. Beiser studied for his BA and DPhil at Oxford. He has taught at seven universities during his career – Penn, Wisconsin, Colorado, Indiana, Yale, Harvard and Syracuse – and has researched for many years in Germany, where he was a recipient of Thyssen and Humboldt fellowships.

JOB’s Comment:

Beiser keeps introducing to the Anglosphere or very significantly expanding and deepening its knowledge of one neglected area of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German thought after another.

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"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi